Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Visiting Ann

Several months ago I was going over some old research and found a new reference on ancestry.co.uk. to my husband's 3xGreat-Grandmother, Ann Elms (nee Jones).

It was a record from the Register of Private Graves at The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. The record gave details of the grave's purchase by Ann's husband, Benjamin John Elms, and notes Ann's interment in the grave.

I then found a second reference from the Register of Burials in the year 1866 at The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. 

Once I knew that Ann was there I wanted to plan a visit to the cemetery. It so happened that we had a holiday to Europe planned later in the year so we included a stay in London and a visit to the cemetery on our itinerary.

I learnt about The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Parkan independent charity that looks after Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park (the current name for The City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery). I found a wealth of information  about the cemetery and its history plus an offer from The Friends to provide assistance in locating graves. 

Several weeks prior to our intended visit I wrote to The Friends and received a reply that I had been put on a list of enquiries to be dealt with by volunteers and that it may take some time to get help from them.

As we were driving up to London last week my husband asked if I had heard back from The Friends and I indicated that I hadn't. We resolved to visit the cemetery on our own and try to locate the grave by ourselves.  

Robert was anxious to honour his ancestor
After we settled in our hotel a few hours later  I received an email from the Heritage Officer at the cemetery who said "Do you have a copy of the burial record/s or at least a burial number for Ann? Happy to help but we need the grave number to assist. If you are visiting on Monday I may be able to meet you on site to help with the location."  I responded immediately. As it was after business hours we didn't expect an immediate response and resolved to visit the cemetery on Monday.

As we were heading out last Monday morning we heard from Claire Stack the Heritage Officer  "Thank you for those documents, that's all I need. I can do anytime from 10am today." We agreed to meet at 10am.

We received a warm welcome from Claire whose passion for her work and love of her workplace were evident. Claire had access to information not on Ancestry that enabled her to take us to the old area in the cemetery where the grave could be found. 

Ann's grave was somewhere among the ivy and brambles 

Claire and Robert started looking through the undergrowth and stinging nettles in the appropriate section and, after just a few minutes, Claire called that she had found it. There was a headstone but it was covered in ivy which obliterated the inscription.

Headstone covered in ivy

Mindful of the fragility of the headstone Claire asked Robert not to pull the ivy off but to remove the leaves and try to break off the ivy at the base of the headstone. This we did.

It appeared as though Ann's husband, Benjamin John Elms, had intended for this to be a grave for the whole family. The inscription at the top of the headstone is "The family grave of  Benjamin & Anne Elms of Poplar." I have not yet been able to locate Benjamin's final resting place in 1872. The Register of graves indicates that there is only interment.

The inscription revealed

Robert, a happy descendant

She is not lost but only gone before
I hope we meet her on a brighter shore
Where we shall never part again
Lord be it so - Amen Amen

Being able to honour an ancestor was a rewarding activity on the last day of our holiday.

Our thanks go Claire for her warm welcome and assistance in locating Ann's grave. We would never have found it without Claire's care and kindness. 


Brooke Wooldridge said...

So lucky to get help from the Friends just in time. The photos of the headstone are wonderful (with and without ivy!)

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a find…it was obviously meant to be that you got a reply just when you needed it.


GeniAus said...

We were so relieved to hear from Claire as we had organised our stay in London to be convenin=ent to the cemetery and the Tower Hamlets Archives (that's another story)

Anne Young said...

Terrific timing to meet up with Claire. Useful advice to deal with the ivy without harming the stone.


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